*Set up committee to investigate, report back in four weeks
By Sandra Onyekwere
Honourable Karimi Steve Sunday, a member of the House of Representatives, has raised a fresh alarm over the disbursement and utilisation of the N100 billion released for the construction of mini ranches across the country.
Honourable Sunday made the call on Thursday after which the House of Representatives moved to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the scam.
The resolution followed a motion by Honourable Sunday entitled: “Urgent need to investigate the N100 billion released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the construction of modern mini ranches across the nation.”
The ad hoc committee, when set up, would be expected to report to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.
Hardly had Honourable Sunday moved the motion when the Minority Leader, Honourable Leo Ogor, raised a point of order, relying on Order 9 of the rules of the House.
The Deputy Speaker, Honourable Yusuf Lasun, who presided over the session, however, over-ruled him, saying that since the motion was an investigative one, members should be allowed to decide.
While moving the motion, the lawmaker said “a committee set up by the Federal Government in 2014 on grazing reserves under the chairmanship of the former governor of Benue State, Mr Gabriel Suswam, which identified issues causing the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers to include struggle for land, water and uncontrolled influx of nomadic herdsmen, and thus noted that grazing reserves and cattle routes already gazetted had been encroached upon; such routes should be recovered and improved upon, taking into consideration present day realities.”
The lawmaker also recalled the recurring conflicts, attacks, counter-attacks and killings between herdsmen and local farmers in the country in the last five years over the grazing of cattle and other ruminants on farmlands.
According to him, “as a result of the above findings, the committee recommended the release of N100 billion through the CBN as seed funding to all the states for the construction of ranches.
The N100 billion, he said, was approved by the National Economic Council to various states of the federation for the construction of modern mini ranches, in a bid to boost agricultural yields and put an end to the conflicts arising from the traditional method of grazing.
He, however, submitted that the approval for the release of the fund was a contravention of Section 80 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which provides that no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the federation except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.
To this end, he said despite the release of the money without parliamentary approval, there had been no ranch constructed anywhere in the country to account for the expenditure of the money and as a result, the conflicts they were intended to resolve had gone exacerbated, leading to more killings.
He maintained that sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution empowered the National Assembly to investigate the utilisation of public funds in order to curb waste.
Also, another attempt by Honourable Samson Okwu to stop the motion, was overruled by the presiding officer.
When the motion was put to vote by the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Lasun, it was supported by majority of the lawmaker.